In the Photographer’s Studio (15)

Self-taught, part-time pin-up photographer Jimmy Deas is based in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, but for the 2013 shoot we’re featuring today he traveled to Birmingham in the English Midlands, where the modeling agency Pin-Up Academy arranges regular studio days.

The two models worked closely together for years before one of them retired earlier in 2014 to start a family. October DiVine is the co-owner of the Pin-up Academy, and says that, through modeling,

‘I hope to become a stronger and more positive person who can be looked at as a role model for females old and young to show that being pale and wearing big knickers can be sexy!!’

James Deas 01 October James Deas 02 October James Deas 03 October

We have already encountered October, shooting for Tease and Cake in July 2014 and experiencing some confusion over whether she was being smacked or spanked. (She was only being smacked, more’s the pity.)

The other half of the partnership has now retired: Sinderella Rockafella, here showing us what she describes as her ‘best side’:

James Deas 04 SinderellaJames Deas 05 SinderellaJames Deas 06 SinderellaJames Deas 07 SinderellaJames Deas 08 SinderellaJames Deas 09 Sinderella

According to Jimmy, Sinderella is a ‘naughty minx’ who misbehaved on the shoot, and the consequence was ‘DiVine Intervention’ – which also happens to be the title of this photo.

James Deas 10 Divine Intervention

Sinderella herself commented: ‘I’m always being naughty, good job I have my Wife to spank it out of me!’ (She was only joking, of course – both models are married, but to husbands, not each other!)

If you are interested in Jimmy’s work, please visit his online portfolio.

Act Your Age

The farce Act Your Age was written in 1943 by the Minnesota playwright William Davidson (1897-1982). It was handled by the Dramatic Publishing Company, which also managed Men are Like Streetcars, so it was mainly offered by American high schools, with a smattering of performances by local and church amateur dramatics groups. Like Streetcars, it proved exceptionally popular until the early 1970s. Audiences regularly enjoyed a whole range of comical scenes involving lady wrestlers, an accidentally shredded skirt, two feigned deaths and, for good measure, a sound spanking!

Angelica Goetz and Geraldine Joyce, Angy and Jerry for short, are a couple of teenage girls who have become pen-pals to a couple of American sailors on active duty, Jim Matson and Archibald Hoffenflugel, thankfully nicknamed ‘Gadget’. The correspondence has got a bit out of hand: the girls let it be understood that they are older than they really are, and somehow they have become engaged to the sailors, even though they have never met or even seen one another’s pictures.

The sailors remedy that in their latest letters, and the girls plan to have themselves photographed by way of reciprocation, dressed up in their elder sisters’ clothes so that they look the age they pretended to be and not the age they really are. But while they are getting ready, some surprise visitors arrive, unnoticed by anyone: Gadget and Jim, on a three-day pass, and bearing gifts (including a pair of Hawaiian grass hula skirts). Another person who is expected is the girls’ aunt, Sandra Stone, who is a teacher and is coming to give them some summer coaching in Latin. Luckily she is not going to be accompanied by her other niece, their cousin, a young brat named Elsie.

There’s an initial bit of bottom-related comedy when the girls are being photographed by Cora, the maid, cook and spare-time wrestler. Angy wants to be shown using a pair of binoculars, as if looking out to sea for her love:

Cora, trying to get the camera in focus, succeeds only in getting a view of Angy’s rear elevation as she bends over to peer through the binoculars.

And then the sailors turn up, and the complications begin…

Next on the doorstep is Aunt Sandra, who turns out to be an attractive young woman in her early 20s and not the dried-up old stick the girls imagined. But there has been a mix-up with her luggage: the suitcase she’s carrying turns out to be her niece Elsie’s, which means she hasn’t any of her own clothes to wear. Cora explains what her nieces have been up to, and Sandra takes charge. She intercepts the wire the sailors sent asking for an extension of their shore leave to get married, altering it slightly to get them into hot water with their commanding officer, who also happens to be her father. And as for Angy and Jerry:

SANDRA: Those girls should be taught a lesson they won’t forget.

CORA: But not by them sailors.

SANDRA: I think we can do it ourselves.

She puts on clothes from the suitcase and arrives again, this time in the person of Elsie. Throughout what follows it is completely clear to the audience, albeit not to some of the characters, that this is a young woman who is only dressed as a little girl and who is only acting a part. And the part she is acting is that of a holy terror. She attaches herself to one of the sailors, calling him ‘Uncle Jim’, and when they go out riding, she secretes a cactus under each of the sailors’ saddle blankets, to the mutual discomfort of Gadget and his horse. Jim, who hadn’t yet mounted when the prank was discovered, takes charge of the situation:

JIM: I’m afraid you have been very, very naughty.

SANDRA (in wide-eyed innocence): Will you tell me all about it, Uncle Jim?

JIM: Do you really think I have to?

SANDRA: No, I don’t guess so.

JIM: I hope you aren’t going to make it worse by lying.

SANDRA (pretending to stifle a sob): No. No, I won’t, Uncle Jim. Let’s neither of us say anything more about it.

JIM: You might have killed Gadget and your Uncle Jim.

SANDRA (apparently on the verge of tears): You mean I might have killed my sailor?

JIM: That’s exactly what I mean.

SANDRA: If I had, I’d’ve felt like I wanted to die!

JIM (grimly): And that is precisely the way you are going to feel now!

Before Sandra realizes what is happening, Jim tips her across his knee and spanks her soundly.


When Jim has finished his paddling he sets Sandra on her feet. She stands left of the couch and confronts him in high anger.

SANDRA (forgetting her role for a moment and speaking in her normal voice): I’ve never been so insulted in my – (She catches herself and breaks into a childish sob.) You’re a great big bully, that’s what you are!

JIM: No, Elsie. You are just a spoiled little girl who got caught.

GADGET: Some day you’ll remember this as the turnin’ point in your entire life. Jim had oughta spanked you with a cactus.

The girls join in, reminding her sharply of the pain she caused the poor horses.

JIM: Now, don’t all start scolding little Elsie. She’s had punishment enough.

SANDRA: Yes, Uncle Jim, and I shall always remember it.

Gadget comments, ‘Just watchin’ you lambast that kid drew the pain out of me like a poultice.’ Then Sandra gets rid of the girls and sailors by telling them she has seen a capsized canoe, and phones her father to let him know that Gadget and Jim are at the house and are ‘causing a great deal of trouble everywhere’ – and on the last word she rubs the part of her anatomy where they have caused her the most trouble.

In due course, a telegram arrives for the sailors. Sandra says she hopes it’s bad news.

CORA: You’re just sore because he spanked you.

SANDRA: Suppose Gadget had put you across his knees and spanked you?

CORA: When I gets on a sailor’s knee it’s right side up.

And this is something she goes on to demonstrate at the ‘curtain moment’ ending the second act:

02 1967 Albia Community HS

(All three of them are trying to keep the lid of the box closed, because Commander Stone is inside!)

But we’re getting ahead of things. When Sandra and Cora go to steam open the telegram, the sailors and girls return, having found no trace of any boat in trouble. ‘After that canoe story,’ says Gadget, ‘he ought to spank her with a paddle.’ Jim confronts Sandra over the lie.

SANDRA: I like to tell stories.

JIM: But people don’t like little girls who tell stories.

SANDRA: I don’t care. I like people to hate me.

JIM: Why?

SANDRA: People that hate you, you don’t have to be nice to.

JIM: That isn’t why you told me the story.

SANDRA (pretending to whimper): No. It was because you spanked me.

JIM: I didn’t really want to spank you, Elsie.

SANDRA: You never could have told it from my end…

All ends well, though not before Sandra tries to change back into her own clothes, finds the house parrot has shredded the skirt and so has to wear a hula skirt instead. Angy and Jerry learn that they should act their age, and ultimately Jim and Gadget do get girls: Gadget falls for Cora and the spanking works its usual romantic magic on Jim and Sandra.

The play premiered at the Roosevelt High School, Minneapolis, Minnesota, on April 29, 1943; Robert Dease was Jim and Mary Markve was Sandra. It took off quickly, with at least four more productions before the end of the year, and Aunt Sandra was soon recognized as the starring role, responsible for a great many of the laughs – even if the actress gets some of them at dire cost to her bottom!

In a school context, with performers all the same age, it’s easier to gloss over the play’s central implausibility, the fact that Jim and others are so extraordinarily unobservant as to be taken in by Sandra’s disguise. But also in a school context, Sandra’s disguise presents another kind of problem…

How do you dress a grown woman to make her look like a little girl? Until the late ’60s, there was an obvious answer, being modeled here by LaJune Fredrickson in the senior play at Little York High School, Illinois, in the school year 1952-53:

03 1953 Little York HS NS

And indeed even after the late ’60s, in the 1970-71 school year, the same approach was taken in the junior play at Drummond High School, Oklahoma:

04 1971 Drummond HS (NS)

And still in Oklahoma, the 1963-64 junior play at Byron Driftwood High School, Cherokee, seems to have remembered that, since Aunt Sandra is wearing clothes from Elsie’s suitcase, they are likely to be not only too young for her, but also too small for her:

05 1964 Byron Driftwood HS (NS)

Bearing all that in mind, let’s have another look at the spanking scene. This is the 1954-55 junior play at Austintown Fitch High School, Youngstown, Ohio, and Judith Antolik is being spanked by Lane Rigby:

06 1955 Austintown Fitch HS

In fact, you don’t see what you might think you see in that photo, as you can tell by taking a close look at this one, showing a later scene in which Cora is teaching Sandra some wrestling moves:

07 1955 Austintown Fitch HS

We’ll never know for sure what color panties Judith was wearing, but they certainly weren’t white!

If Sandra often wore shorter-than-adult skirts, however, there’s no evidence that this troubled anyone until the play was already twenty years old. But after that, some productions began making a feature of little Elsie’s big underwear. Here’s Teresa Bell effortlessly showing her knickers in the senior play at Schenck High School, East Millinocket, Maine, on October 21, 1971:

08 1972 Schenck HS (NS)

And here, in full period bloomers, is Donna Crandall in the 1966-67 junior play at Hale High School, Tulsa, Oklahoma:

09 1967 Hale HS (NS)10 1967 Hale HS (NS)

And this approach kept Joie Miller safe from unwanted exposure when she was spanked by Paul Bushore in the 1962-63 junior play at Parshall High School, North Dakota:

11 1963 Parshall HS

That was the earliest appearance of bloomers in the play’s documented stage history.

Now we’re going to follow that history, more or less by half-decades, looking as we go at the other available photographs of the spanking scene.

The 1940s

There were at least 71 productions during the school years 1943-44 to 1948-49. But there are relatively few known photos of the spanking scene, perhaps owing in part to the less than universal availability of good photographic equipment and expertise. Witness this image of Jean Hagans being spanked by Don Schlotz at Marion High School, Kansas, on January 29, 1946:

12 1946 Marion HS

But thankfully there was better technology on hand out east the year before, leaving us this great image of Betty Kroll and Charles Mutti in the senior play at Croton Harmon High School, Croton-on-Hudson, New York, on November 17, 1944:

13 1945 Croton Harmon HS

… or this one of the 1944-45 senior play at Curwensville High School, Pennsylvania:

14 1945 Curwensville HS

The Early 1950s

There were at least 52 productions during the school years 1949-50 to 1953-54. We begin on March 24, 1950, with the junior play at Escalon High School, California. More of the cast are gathered in this publicity picture than will actually be on stage to see Richard Kearsley spank Miriam Johnson when it happens in the production, but Miriam is still putting on a good show for the camera:

15 1950 Escalon HS

355 days later, we come to the junior play at Thorp High School, Wisconsin, on March 14, 1951. The photographer hasn’t troubled to find the most flattering angle on Charmaine Wolf as she is spanked by Eddie Wojtalewicz:

16 1951 Thorp HS

Also that year, at Monticello High School:

17 1951 Monticello HS

On now to April 1952, when Act Your Age was the senior play at Hartford High School, Michigan, with David Rittase as Jim and Helen Dyer as Sandra. And as so often, when it comes to publicity, the newspapers did love a spanking scene:

18 1952 Hartford HS

In the same year, Toppenish High School, Washington, staged it as the junior play, and Bob Putney spanked Donna Hougey:

19 1952 Toppenish HS

And finally for this half of the decade, we get a bit of vigor at Farmington High School, Connecticut:

20 1954 Farmington HS

Curiously, that’s the only Aunt Sandra we’ll see who’s attempting protective measures!

The Later 1950s

There were at least 50 productions during the school years 1954-55 to 1958-59. These included a non-school ‘amdram’ production at Stacyville, Iowa, in April 1956, that got a bit of publicity, partly because the author, William Davidson, was present, but mainly because the blonde actress playing Aunt Sandra had once been a professional model with the Patricia Stevens agency. Regrettably it wasn’t such good publicity that the papers thought to show us ‘Mrs Harry Mendenhall’ getting spanked…

But never mind, here’s a terrific shot from the school year 1954-55, captioned ‘the Navy takes command’, from Defiance High School, Ohio, with Marvin Schatz doing the honors and Roxanne Widmer giving us that all-important, panicked look that says, ‘Oh no, I’m being spanked!’

21 1955 Defiance HS

Westward ho to South Dakota, where Act Your Age was the junior play at Hot Springs High School that same year:

22 1955 Hot Springs HS

And westward again to South Bend High School, Washington, where Doug Pederson took Elva Christensen over his knee in the senior play on November 19, 1954:

23 1955 South Bend HS

Just under 50 weeks later, and we visit the senior play at Upper Dublin High School, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, on November 2 and 3, 1956. Richard Wolf is spanking Anita Lewis, but, in an unusual move, the production seems to have done away with the couch and has him sitting in the window seat:

24 1957 Upper Dublin HS

Now we leap forward to April 25, 1958, when Janet Husemoen was spanked by Gerald Bjorlo in the junior play at Spring Grove High School, Minnesota:

25 1958 Spring Grove HS

And seven months later, into a new school year, Myra Cantrell gets the same treatment from Mike McMullen in three performances, November 20-22, 1958, at Auburn High School, Washington:

26 1959 Auburn HS

And that is the only time you’ll see Sandra (as Elsie) wearing black stockings!

The Early 1960s

There were at least 30 productions during the school years 1959-60 to 1963-64. The earliest is the 1960-61 senior play at Trempealeau High School, Wisconsin, and it suffers from botched OTK positioning:

27 1961 Trempealeau HS

Janice White of Attica High School, Indiana, also seems a little off the flat in this senior play effort from 1961-62:

28 1962 Attica HS

And in the same year, the next two productions, both of them senior plays, suffer from the common problem of letting the girl keep her feet on the ground. First at Clay City Community High School, Illinois:

29 1962 Clay City Community HS

And now at Merchantville High School, New Jersey, with Joseph Reed spanking Lynne Mancini:

30 1962 Merchantville HS

No, I hadn’t forgotten that last one when I mentioned Aunt Sandra’s stockings a few moments back. It’s part of a group of pictures from around this time where the photographer has shot a rehearsal of the spanking scene in which one or both of the actors are not in costume. The other two come from the following school year, 1962-63. First, the junior play at William Chrisman High School, Independence, Missouri, where Steve Fadler is properly dressed as sailor Jim, but Betty Palmer is in her regular clothes, not disguised as little Elsie:

31 1963 William Chrisman High

And here’s a somewhat glazed Tom Wyne giving his performance rather less than the excellent Jean McDowall is giving hers in this rehearsal for the junior play at Eisenhower High School, Decatur, Illinois:

32 1963 Eisenhower HS

This shot from the November 1962 production at South Middleton High School, Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, also looks at first like an out-of-costume rehearsal picture: at least, that dress Sandra Lee Naugle’s wearing doesn’t look much like a distinctively juvenile disguise:

33 1963 South Middleton Township HS

But take another look at her hair: she’s pinned on some little girl’s braids – which don’t even match her true hair color!

On to the school year 1963-64. At Stayton Union High School, Oregon, Barbara Spellmeyer is snapped just as she is being taken across Bob Koch’s knee:

34 1964 Stayton Union HS

Meanwhile, over at Ridgefarm High School, Illinois, Sally Livengood is already in position, though it looks as if Terry Dillman has a long way to reach if he’s to deal with her at all effectively!

35 1964 Ridgefarm HS

The Later 1960s

There were at least 16 productions during the school years 1964-65 to 1968-69, but only one of them yielded a spanking photo. Happily, it’s an excellent one from the senior play at Zeeland High School, Michigan, in November 1964, right at the start of the period. The production got an uncommonly long run of three performances, all of them featuring Ken Blaukamp as Jim and Emmy Janssen as Sandra:

36 1965 Zeeland HS

Emmy’s outfit offers the opportunity to mention an ongoing trend in productions over the past ten years. The script specifies that Aunt Sandra’s ‘Elsie’ disguise should include a straw hat and ankle socks, but since at least 1955 a minority of Sandras have instead worn knee socks like Emmy, and indeed like Susan Rathborne in the junior play at Manchester High School, Iowa, on May 11, 1960:

37 1960 Manchester HS (NS)

In idle moments I wonder whether this might have anything to do with changes in sock fashion since 1943: as ankle socks became popular for older girls, did some directors start to feel they were no longer quite the right wear for Sandra’s young alter-ego? But whatever the truth, let’s enjoy those knee socks when they come!

The Early 1970s

There were at least 11 productions during the school years 1969-70 to 1973-74. Our first port of call is Quinlan, Texas, where Martha Jackson is taking no chances over underwear exposure during her spanking by Joe Fields in the 1970-71 junior play at Boles Home High School:

38 1971 Boles Home HS

Now to Wisconsin for a performance at Kaukauna High School on December 4 and 5, 1972. Debbie Vanderloop has suffered as badly at the cropping hands of the yearbook designer as she is about to suffer from the spanking hand of John Femal (who, despite his surname and looks, is definitely male):

39 1973 Kaukauna HS

And finally to Arizona in the school year 1973-74, where Page High School gives us the latest known photograph of the Act Your Age spanking scene:

40 1974 Page HS

Tail off towards the end though it does, that’s still an impressive showing across more than thirty years, with a grand total of 231 known productions (including the April 1943 premiere), in almost every state of the union. And, as always with this kind of widespread high school play, I’m reporting only the productions I’ve been able to document from freely available online sources; there are likely to have been many more. But this play offers such a wealth of comic situations and visually striking moments that, unlike Men are Like Streetcars, it’s not uncommon for a photographer to overlook the spanking altogether.

Despite that, the productions can hardly have cut it out: the Dramatic Publishing Company is very punctilious about requiring clients to seek authorization to make changes to its scripts, and the spanking is such a central incident that removing it would require a lot of consequent alterations to get the plot to work. To put it simply, if a school doesn’t want to include the spanking, it had better not choose the play at all!

And that has a bearing on the next phase of its existence. At some point the DPC allowed it to go out of print, but, unusually, it remained on their books and continued to be offered in typescript. Their website features approving quotes about it from four schools in the Midwest and Texas, though there’s no way of knowing precisely when those productions took place. But in 2012, Jennifer Montgomery was looking for a 1940s period piece to put on as a school play. She was a high school teacher in Marion County, Kansas – yes, the same Marion County where that blurry old 1946 spanking photo was taken – and guess what period piece Jennifer chose, 66 years later! The play was performed at Centre High School in November, with Kevin Lewis as Jim, while the role of spanked Sandra went to the very pretty high school high flyer Makenzie Deines:

41 Makenzie Deines

And this seems to have begun a small renaissance for Act Your Age. In 2013, the play was considered for production at Greenon High School, Ohio, on a short-list that also included classics like The Importance of Being Earnest and Blithe Spirit, but all of them lost out to Aladdin. But later the same year it was revived again at Elkhorn Area High School, Wisconsin, with Alan Liner spanking Jennifer Mitchell (who had played Bianca in the school’s 2012 production of The Taming of the Shrew). No spanking photos have yet surfaced from any recent production, alas, but it is fair to say that we have probably not yet seen the last of Act Your Age!

In the Photographer’s Studio (14)

Dan Morrill works in Seattle for Studio 5 Graphics. He’s interested in vintage ideas of beauty and recreating old-style shots of vaudeville showgirls, and he also shoots a lot of cosplay and horror themed images.

But his work doesn’t naturally lend itself to spanking. Why? Because it’s only in a small minority of shoots that he uses more than one model.

But on May 12, 2012, he found an inventive solution to that problem. Here are the models:

Dan Morrill (0)

And here’s the spanking:

Dan Morrill (2)

Dan Morrill (1)Dan Morrill (3)

I guess that could be a horror shoot of sorts: attack of the spanking teddy!

If you are interested in Dan Morrill’s work, please visit his online portfolio.

My Dear Children

The most famous and most influential American stage spanking, other than Kiss Me Kate, featured in the 1939 comedy My Dear Children by Catherine Turney (1906-98) and Jerry Horwin (1905-54). The play ran for a more than a year and was remembered long afterwards, not least because of the extensive press attention it received. And a great deal of that attention was specifically about the spanking. Here is the full, epic story of that turbulent production and its aftermath…

The play is set at Christmas in a castle in the Swiss Alps, where an ageing, temperamental matinee idol, Allan Manville, is having an affair with a countess whilst preparing to write his memoirs. Also present is Reed Hanson, a reporter covering Manville’s complicated life. There are three unexpected arrivals in the first act: his three daughters, all by different mothers who had once been his acting partners. He has never met any of them since their respective babyhoods, but now they have all sought him out, trailing their various boyfriend problems behind them. In the course of the play, he gets a bad case of fatherly feelings, and in consequence one of them gets a bad case of unsittable bottom syndrome…

His favorite daughter, and the only one who has ever troubled even to write to him, is the middle one, Cordelia Clark. The script describes her thus:

‘She is a handsome girl – daring – brilliant – overly sophisticated. Other people seem to become part of the background when she enters a room. She is the only one of them to inherit her father’s electric personality.’

During the second act, Manville has had all his guests don Shakespearean costume as part of the seasonal celebration; he is now dressed as Hamlet, while Cordelia is Juliet. It turns out that Cordelia has not only inherited his personality but also his inclination to short-term romances: she has just dumped her own young man Willard in order to make a play for her elder half-sister Portia’s prospective fiancé, then takes Willard back after her younger half-sister Miranda has herself fallen for him. Manville disapproves, leading to friction between father and daughter and a needling exchange of apposite biblical quotations – and, although ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ is not among them, that’s where this is headed…

Near the end of the second act, they get into a screaming argument about all the amorous complications she has caused. He calls her a ‘selfish brat’ and quotes ‘honor thy father’ at her.

CORDELIA: What do you mean, ‘Honor thy father’? What have you done that any of us should revere you?

MANVILLE: So – you think I’ve neglected you, do you? (Advances to her) You think I haven’t been a real father, do you? You think my parental technique has been inept? Very well, my dear Cordelia!

He forces her over his knee and begins to spank her.

Hanson rushes in while the spanking continues. ‘This is not for publication,’ says Manville. But Hanson hasn’t come to report the spanking. He’s come to tell Manville that his rival for the countess’s love is on his way to the castle. While he’s distracted by this unwelcome news, Cordelia bites his hand. He snatches it away and says, ‘You coward.’ As he resumes his task, the orchestra starts to play ‘Jingle Bells’ to make it the perfect Christmas spanking. Then the script calls for a ‘Quick Curtain’.

In the third act, a few hours later, Cordelia’s beau has been looking for her as everyone prepares to leave the castle. She explains that she has been walking.

WILLARD: Cordelia – walking?

CORDELIA (laughs a little bitterly): Perhaps I couldn’t sit down. Father’s very thorough.

She starts to sit down – then rises gingerly.

She explains that she’s not going away with him after all.

WILLARD: But everything was settled.

CORDELIA: Until my father took me over his knee.

WILLARD: He had no right. You – a grown woman.

CORDELIA: It’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I was a crazy kid with a lot of phony ideals.

And in the end, everything turns out for the best: Cordelia and her father are reconciled, and Manville resolves to give up writing his memoirs and return to the theater with a new acting partner. The only problem is how they are to be billed: ‘Cordelia and Allan Manville’ or ‘Allan and Cordelia Manville’!

Miss Barrie Picks Her Part

The remarkable story of the play’s fourteen-month first production starts with the ambitions of one woman, Elaine Jacobs. At the age of 16, she fell in love with the distinguished Shakespearean actor and movie star John Barrymore, nicknamed ‘the Great Profile’, after seeing him play the title role in the 1931 film Svengali. She changed her surname to Barrie to sound more like his, contrived to meet with him and eventually married him in 1936 when she was 21 and he was 55.

01 Barrymore and Barrie

It was a stormy May/December relationship that came repeatedly to the brink of divorce, not helped by his progressive descent into ill health and alcohol dependency. In 1938, during one of the good patches, she was trying to find a way to restart his stage career and propel herself to stardom in his wake, when she came upon the script of My Dear Children. She decided that this play, which ends with a career renaissance for an ageing actor with a new young sidekick, would be the perfect vehicle for John Barrymore and herself. She bought the rights. And the role she intended for herself was, obviously, Cordelia Clark…

In her autobiography, All My Sins Remembered, Elaine describes how she and Barrymore first discussed the play. He took a little persuading, but one thing she said to him was, ‘I’m sure you’d enjoy the second act curtain.’ Meaning, of course, the spanking scene. ‘And so would you, my dearest darling,’ he replied.

It has to be said, and often is, that My Dear Children is no masterpiece of the playwright’s art. Barrymore’s producer, Arthur Hopkins, refused to touch it. His agents disapproved of the whole idea. Even Elaine’s mother tried to talk her out of it, but, ironically in view of what was to come, remarked that she was too old to be spanked out of it. But she was adamant, and eventually she secured Richard Aldrich and Richard Myers as producers, who in turn hired Otto Preminger as the director.

The Austrian emigré Preminger had some drawbacks. He didn’t get on with Catherine Turney, the play’s co-author. He had little respect for Elaine, having accurately spotted that she was ‘a woman of little acting ability’, while Elaine in turn felt he lacked the light ‘champagne’ touch the project needed. But he did know something about directing spanking scenes: he’d done one already in the 1936 movie Under Your Spell

02 Under Your Spell

… in which the romantic tangle created by a spoiled socialite, played by British actress Wendy Barrie, is ultimately sorted out by the simple method of giving her a good spanking. Here’s Wendy, who was no relation to Elaine:

03 Wendy Barrie

In the final cut of the movie, she is spanked offscreen… but in the theater there’s nowhere to hide while the curtain stays up…

Rehearsals began in New York in March 1939. At one early session, Preminger decided Barrymore needed a demonstration of what was required in the spanking scene. Elaine later remembered: ‘Otto was a little fresh in his slapping when he had me over his knee.’ But there was worse to come later…

During the rehearsal process it’s crucial to build up the cast’s collective confidence in the script they are going to perform. That wasn’t happening with My Dear Children. The actors worried that this mediocre play was going to turn out dull. But they hadn’t reckoned with John Barrymore’s plans for the show. He wasn’t going to play the script so much as play around the script, rather like a jazz musician riffing on a theme. Audiences didn’t come to see the play, but to see its leading man giving what was effectively a stand-up comedy performance within the play, different every night. Of course, this had its consequences. For one thing, the additional, unscripted business upped the show’s running time; performances that started at 8.30 were known to go on until after midnight. And more pertinently, the star’s unpredictability extended to how he played one particular sequence at the end of the second act…

My Dear Children was planned to find its feet with a preliminary tour, starting on the East Coast and crawling across the USA as far as Nebraska before looping back through Iowa and Illinois en route to a big city opening in Chicago. But the crucial first night on March 24, 1939, was at the McCarter Theatre on the campus at Princeton, to a celebrity audience that ranged from theater impresario Lee Shubert to Broadway star and future Gotham City Penguin Burgess Meredith. One audience member made Barrymore most self-conscious of all: among the first people to see the play, and to see Elaine Barrie get spanked, was this physicist and all-round genius…


Albert Einstein!

And so the play set off for six weeks on the road. It was due to open at the Selwyn Theatre in Chicago, on May 8. But a lot can happen to a play in six weeks…

Spank Me in St Louis

‘John Barrymore and his bride have split up again,’ read a syndicated tidbit that ran in many newspapers across America on May 8, a date obviously chosen for maximum publicity value in relation to the Chicago premiere. ‘Could it be that he was too enthusiastic in that spanking scene they played in My Dear Children?’

The couple’s relationship took a downward turn in the early weeks of the tour. In his heart of hearts, Barrymore knew that he was wasting himself in a second-rate play, and he blamed the woman who had talked him into doing it. By the middle of April, they were no longer on speaking terms except when in character onstage. And onstage, Barrymore also had another way of expressing his feelings…

Put quite simply, he began to spank Elaine harder and harder. ‘Everything in the show built to the spanking scene,’ she later wrote, ‘and I never knew how far he would go. The play had become sheer hell for me.’

Things reached their climax on Monday, April 24, the first night of a week’s engagement in St Louis, Missouri. Exactly what happened has to be picked out of a whole lot of self-serving claims and salacious gossip. Elaine and her husband told directly contradictory stories. When asked about Elaine’s claims that he had spanked her too hard, Barrymore issued a jocular denial:

‘That notion originated in the mind of the bass drum player. Or maybe it was the trombone player. Victor Herbert once told me that trombone players were inclined to be a little screwy. One doesn’t do things like that in public. And I’ve never yet spanked a woman in private. It’s too depleting.’

He may well have found the spanking scene ‘depleting’ that Monday night, because what emerges clearly from all the other conflicting testimony is that Elaine Barrie received what was probably the hardest, longest, most vigorous spanking that has ever been administered to any actress in the line of duty. Barrymore spanked her so hard that the force of it split open the seat of her Juliet dress – whereupon he continued to spank her on her panties. Elaine later embroidered this in a divorce petition, claiming that what had been split was actually ‘a pair of her best lace panties’. She took a taxi back to her hotel, but couldn’t sit down in it and had to kneel on the floor of the cab. And once in the privacy of her hotel bedroom, she discovered that, not surprisingly, her husband had ‘reddened her epidermis’, as the Chicago Tribune delicately put it.

But the show must go on. For the Tuesday performance, Elaine looked a little chunkier around the seat. She had decided to fight paddling with padding! But that didn’t get to the bottom of her marital problems, and after the Wednesday matinee she rushed from the theater, still in full costume and make-up, and fled to the sanctuary of her hotel. A statement was later issued to the effect that she would be leaving the show at her own request, but had agreed to stay on for the rest of the week.

Reporters immediately began to speculate about what had caused the bust-up, and they quickly hit on the most obvious reason. The truth was that this was a very complex marital relationship, and the rift couldn’t be fully explained by anything so simple as a sore bottom and a ripped dress (or panties). People who had seen the Wednesday performance were asked about the spanking and replied, ‘He barely paddled her.’ But the truth wasn’t going to be allowed to get in the way of a good story: soon it was universally accepted that Elaine Barrie had walked out of the show after her husband had spanked her on stage with, shall we say, an unwarranted excess of realism.

It’s not just a good story, it’s also quite a familiar one, isn’t it? It’s always being said that the inspiration for Kiss Me Kate came from the way the fiery marriage of Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne was reflected in their 1939/40 production of The Taming of the Shrew. But the 1948 musical’s creators were surely also drawing on another entry in the 1939/40 theatrical season in which an actress tried to leave a show after an onstage spanking from her estranged husband!

Gentlemen Prefer Spanking Blondes

Elaine Barrie’s walkout decisively shifted the focus of My Dear Children’s public image. The American Weekly, the Hearst Corporation’s Sunday magazine, ran the story that June with a caricature of the spanking scene – the earliest known visual representation.

05 American Weekly

The publicity men realized that this story could be run over and over again with whatever new spin was required, and the role of Cordelia Clark acquired a press soubriquet: ‘the girl who gets spanked’. But the immediate problem was to ensure there was in fact a girl to get spanked.

Such situations are occasionally the making of an understudy’s career. The understudy who traveled with the tour, learning the lines and rehearsing the scenes, was 23-year-old Louise Larabee, and the press at first assumed that she was destined to take over from Elaine. Here she is:

06 Louise Larabee

We don’t know whether she ever actually had to ‘go on’, but she would certainly have been spanked during the understudy rehearsals. But alas (or luckily) for her, when it came to a permanent replacement for Elaine Barrie, the management had other ideas.

Five days after Elaine’s walkout, there was a new actress playing Cordelia: 21-year-old blonde Doris Dudley. The substitution was so swift and smooth that Elaine suspected it had been planned for weeks in the event of trouble. Here’s Doris meeting John Barrymore on the day she joined the cast:

07 Doris and Barrymore

At the time, she was best known for an incident straight out of a 1930s screwball comedy, in which she found herself stranded by bad weather in New York on the day her play opened in Boston… so she borrowed a plane, flew to Boston without a pilot’s license, crash-landed at the airport – and made it to the theater on time! Now, after intensive on-on-one rehearsals with Preminger in New York, she flew out to the Midwest and made her first appearance in Omaha on May 1. Here she is, reading the script in her dressing room on that very day:

08 Doris Dudley

She obviously hasn’t got as far as the spanking scene yet!

No, My Darling Daughter

One other person was angling for the role of Cordelia at this time: John’s real-life daughter, 18-year-old Diana Barrymore.

09 Diana Barrymore

But this wasn’t all that it seemed. By chance, the role of the eldest daughter, Portia, fell vacant shortly afterwards when Dorothy McGuire left the show, and Diana was offered the part. It would have been perfect for the publicists: the arrival of Diana, the child of John’s estranged third wife Dolores Costello, would have matched the plot of My Dear Children. But Diana turned it down and spent the summer acting with a stock company in Maine at a humiliating $10 a week, while the more lucrative part of Portia went to Patricia Waters, seen at the top here:

09a Daughters

Evidently Diana wanted to play Cordelia or nothing. But that probably wasn’t because she craved a nightly spanking across her father’s knee, nor even because Cordelia was the play’s leading lady. She detested Elaine, and she calculated that her father’s on-off marriage might be a little harder to switch back on if the new Cordelia was someone he’d find it hard to have fired from the show. This was nothing if not prescient…

This wasn’t the last time Diana’s career brought her in danger of a good spanking. In the 1942 movie Between Us Girls, she plays a 21-year-old who, for complicated plot reasons, poses as a 12-year-old. Here she is being naughty:

10 Diana Barrymore Between Us Girls

Here she is being naughty with her mother’s fiancé, played by Robert Cummings:

11 Diana Barrymore Between Us Girls (2)

And in the script, when he finds out she’s really 21, he spanks her, and then throws her into a lake to cool off. In the finished movie, however, he just throws her in the lake without giving her anything to cool off from. But Diana’s luck ran out when they shot the publicity pictures for the film:

12 Diana Barymore Between us Girls S

That’ll teach you to meddle in your father’s marriage!

Chicago, Chicago

So now, as far as the publicity men and the newspapers were concerned, My Dear Children was no longer just a vehicle for John Barrymore. Now it was also a play about the spanking of Cordelia Clark. And once it had its Cordelia, there was one thing more the publicists needed: a photograph of her getting spanked. And so…


I have to say I don’t know exactly when or where this shot was taken, but a close look at Doris’ hair shows it must have been soon after she joined the company, either in Omaha or around the time they opened in Chicago. As the play’s run went on, her curls grew looser and longer, as you can see in these pictures taken in May (Omaha), November (Chicago) and February (New York):

14 Doris Hair May 1  193915 Doris Hair November 193916 Doris Hair Feb 2 1940

That means this is the earliest of the six known photographs of the spanking scene. It isn’t the best, but what’s especially good about it is Doris Dudley. Remember, this is only a publicity mockup of the scene, probably done a little hastily if the imperfect, slightly casual pose is anything to go by: this time, just for once, Cordelia isn’t really being spanked. In those circumstances, many an actress wouldn’t give it their all. But Doris was a professional and she was truly committed to her new windfall of a role. Look at the performance she’s giving, the care she’s taking with her face to suggest that she is getting a sound spanking – one that hurts!

And so the production hunkered down for a profitable eight-month stay in Chicago. Within a fortnight it was clear that My Dear Children was a hit: the Selwyn Theatre was booked out weeks in advance, drawing capacity audiences of around 7,500 people a week and showing grosses that hadn’t been seen in the city since before the Wall Street crash. What was pulling them in was Barrymore’s ad-libbed antics – there were complaints only on the rare occasions when he played it straight! – and these antics were partly fuelled by drink. ‘He arrives every night, dead or alive,’ commented the theater doorman. No two performances were the same: sometimes he was drunk enough to be brilliant, sometimes so drunk he was terrible. Then on one fateful night he was unable to be there at all…

Barrymore had a minor heart attack on May 30, and a younger actor was found to go on in his place at short notice. So here’s the man who got to spank Doris Dudley for one night only:

17 Orson Welles

Orson Welles!

The stricken Barrymore asked Welles to send a telegram in his name, to be read out to the audience before the performance, in which he apologised for his own inability to be there and thanked Welles for taking over. Welles dropped him a note to confirm this had been done:

18 Orson Welles

He goes on to say: ‘Also I am playing your part in irreverent imitation of how I imagine you might play it. (I will stink).’

No history relates whether he did stink or not, but the show then took a three-week hiatus to allow Barrymore to recover. His only duties included a studio photocall with his ‘daughters’ for theater photographer Maurice Seymour on June 6; but his condition precluded vigorous activity, so there seems to have been no attempt to stage a certain popular scene! Afterwards a junior member of the cast was appointed to be his keeper and ensure that he reached the theater on time, at least moderately sober and in a fit state to perform.

All of this happened, and all of Barrymore’s manic, drunken behavior was tolerated, because the show was a smash hit. And, as is always the way, success spawns merchandising. The management decided to issue a souvenir program with photographs of the cast and scenes from the play. So the two stars found themselves called for another photographic session on August 6. One of their tasks was to pose for some more pictures of the spanking scene. Here’s the first one they did:

19 August 6

As you can see, Doris’ dress has been partly lifted to display her legs as she is spanked. That may have been the desired effect, but this wasn’t considered quite a perfect execution: the raised part of the skirt is inside-out, showing the seam, and it sits on top of her in messy folds. So on the second attempt, they tucked it up neatly inside:

20 August 6

This was the shot the management liked, and used in the souvenir program. They liked it so much that it was also the image selected to represent the play as a whole on an advertising postcard:

21 postcard

The caption, ‘John Barrymore joins in sending Riotous Greetings’, calls attention to one of the show’s main draws that couldn’t be captured in still photography, but the picture confirms just how important and central the spanking scene was considered to be.

Sting, Baby, Sting

None of the pictures we’ve seen so far conveys just what a sheer spectacle Cordelia’s spanking was. Newspaper comments regularly characterized it as ‘hearty’, ‘enthusiastic’ – and, most telling of all, ‘loud’! When Doris Dudley’s 6-year-old son first saw the play in Chicago, he yelled out involuntarily at the sight of his mommy being soundly spanked. And, according to Barrymore’s biographer Alma Powers-Waters, the wife of the show’s company manager, even after his illness ‘he continued to spank his daughter with gusto’. We get a glimpse of that gusto in the next pair of photographs.

Early on in the play, Hanson’s photographer is caught talking unauthorized shots, intending to sell them to Life magazine for a spread about Manville. The publicists decided that, in advance of the planned opening on Broadway, it would be worth getting a genuine photo feature in Life, so in November the magazine dispatched the photojournalist Bernard Hoffman to Chicago. Hoffman was later the first American photographer at Hiroshima after the bomb fell, but in 1939 he witnessed a very different ground zero…

On the afternoon in question, the cast ran through selected scenes from the play while Hoffman took a total of 154 photographs. Just eight of them ended up in the December 4 issue of Life, including neither of his two pictures of the spanking scene. When you see them, it’s obvious why that was:

22 Life23 Life

Although Barrymore was in the wrong costume for the scene, in all other respects they performed the spanking just as they would in the play itself… with a vigor that was simply too fast for the camera shutter. Look again at the first picture. Barrymore’s hand has landed on Doris’ bottom, but you can also see the movement blur of its rapid descent. You can see the traces of her wildly kicking legs and the trajectory of her face as she jerks her head upward, mouth open as she cries out in pain. Technically speaking it’s an unusable photo, but almost because of that it captures perfectly a sense of what an astonishing, visually exciting moment of theater the scene must have been. And don’t forget, it was also loud!

Who would have thought that any actress would covet the role of ‘the girl who gets spanked’? But that’s exactly what happened next…

You’ve Got to Fight for the Right to a Spanking

On January 6, 1940, the show closed in Chicago having played for 32 weeks (not including the three weeks Barrymore was ill). It had taken more than $250,000. After that last performance, Barrymore received a tip-off that worried him. During the run, he’d sometimes responded to the intruding noise of sirens on the street outside the theater by quipping that his wife must be in town. But that night she really was…

He had no wish to see Elaine. He hid out in a suburban hotel and later slipped away from Chicago in disguise, traveling to Pittsburgh to begin the three weeks on the road that would take the show to New York, where it opened at the Belasco Theatre on January 31. And who should be there on the first night but the persistent Elaine Barrie?

Barrymore had a guardian outside his dressing room: daughter Diana pointedly turned Elaine away with raised fists when she came to visit, and after the show she took her father out to the Monte Carlo nightclub. All went well until she got up to dance, leaving her seat vacant. It wasn’t unoccupied for long: Elaine materialized as if from nowhere, wearing a low-cut gold lame evening gown, and told her husband that she couldn’t live without him. ‘I don’t want you back for keeps,’ she assured him. ‘All I want is 24 hours of bliss.’ And his heart melted:

24 Reconciled

When Diana returned to the table, there was a public row with Elaine that ended with Diana retiring, vanquished. Then Doris Dudley visited the Barrymore table, and opened with, ‘You’ve won, haven’t you, my little conqueress?’

24a doris and elaine

Elaine had some hard words for Doris, and then the reconciled couple left to spend the night and most of the next day together at Elaine’s hotel. When he arrived for the second New York performance on the evening of February 1, Barrymore had decided that the 24 hours of bliss should continue indefinitely. And that meant he wanted his wife back in the show.

Naturally Doris was, as the Oakland Tribune put it, ‘much perturbed over her spanking future’. She told reporters, ‘I’m in the peculiar position of trying to fight sex with talent,’ and declared that she wouldn’t leave the show voluntarily: they would have to fire her to get her part. A photocall was arranged for all three performers and Barrymore posed, as one caption put it, holding his ‘benevolent palms’ above the two actresses’ heads…

25 Benevolent palms

… but the real issue was which of them would be feeling his less than benevolent palm across her bottom. The newspapers spun the story as a tussle between two actresses for the right to be spanked.

26 newspaper story 1940

Doris received hundreds of letters of support, but during the Saturday matinee on February 3, at the end of the second act, she realized that all was lost.

She had been with the show for nine months. She had been soundly spanked by John Barrymore nearly 300 times (not to mention once by Orson Welles). She knew very well what it was like. But that afternoon, for the first time ever, he went easy on her. His half-hearted spanking performance told her all she needed to know about what was on the cards.

By the union rules of the day, any performer who got fired was entitled to two weeks’ notice in writing. Doris arrived early for the evening performance fully expecting to be handed a letter, and fully intending to work out every day of that notice period: in effect, sixteen more spankings. There was no letter, but she was told to report to the producer’s office the next day, Sunday. A deal was offered that would cut her remaining performances, and spankings, from sixteen to twelve – nine evenings and three matinees. After that, she would get a raise and go into the road company of Claire Booth Luce’s anti-Nazi play Margin for Error, which was due to open in New Haven on February 16, two days after her last painful session across John Barrymore’s knee. The director and star was someone she already knew: Otto Preminger, who had also directed My Dear Children – and probably spanked her during those initial rehearsals in New York the year before!

And so it was that, as a syndicated press story put it, ‘Doris Dudley was spanked out of the cast.’ She was remembered for years afterwards as the actress who played John Barrymore’s ‘much spanked daughter’. For instance, when in the fall of 1940 she joined the cast of the radio sitcom Meet Mr Meek, playing the ingenue daughter of a shrewish mother and her henpecked husband, the press quipped that she ‘got so many spankings from John Barrymore in his last play, My Dear Children, that she gave up “legit” for radio, where the soundman takes the whacks instead of the actress’. (‘Legit’ is short for ‘legitimate theater’, meaning live performance in a play, as opposed to vaudeville, movies or broadcasting.)

But the longer perspective of theater history has been less kind to Doris. Seduced by the glamor and soap opera of the stormy Barrymore marriage, previous accounts of the affair have tended to emphasize Elaine Barrie’s performance as the spanked Cordelia. But the truth is that Doris Dudley, by far the abler actress of the two, played the part for twice as long as Elaine and received twice as many spankings – and all without a word of complaint. By rights and in fairness, Cordelia Clark should be remembered as her part, not Elaine’s.

27 Doris Dudley

Never mind, dear – the Spank Statement loves you!

Back Under the Benevolent Palm

Elaine made her first Broadway appearance as Cordelia on February 15. The Chicago Tribune later reported that Elaine ‘has taken her public spankings in the play with as good grace as the situation and circumstances permit’. Their man at the Belasco on her first night wrote that ‘there was a light buzzing in the auditorium’ as the play moved towards the end of the second act. After all the publicity, the spanking scene was the one everyone was waiting for. ‘What, wondered the crowd, would happen now? Mr Barrymore was firm with Miss Barrie, but not rough. He spanked her with more fervor, and apparently more satisfaction, than he had spanked her successor, Doris Dudley. But this was to be expected. Something must be allowed for a husband’s normal reactions. It is so seldom he is afforded so perfect an opportunity of employing the traditional corrective.’ And Elaine, it seems, was happy to be spanked. She had got what she wanted.

The change of cast brought the actors one extra duty. New publicity pictures had to be taken with the new Cordelia. Barrymore and Elaine were summoned to the theater early on the afternoon of February 16 for the photographer to take shots of Manville telling his daughter what she deserves…

28 Feb 16

… and then giving it to her…

29 Feb 16

The photo was later printed in Picture Play with a caption subtly knocking the inexperience of one of the participants: ‘John Barrymore instructs Elaine Barrie in stage technique with great impetus.’ And that, frankly, was as well-deserved as the spanking!

There was also time for a little horseplay at the photo shoot. I said earlier that there are six known photographs of the spanking scene in this production. Here, presented solely for reasons of historical comprehensiveness, is a seventh:

30 Feb 16

That’s the director, Otto Preminger, getting the Barrymore treatment while Elaine looks on. It can’t have taken long, because he had a train to catch: he was due on stage in Connecticut with Doris Dudley that night!

Barrymore now introduced a new bit of unscripted business at the end of the play: when Manville and Cordelia are reconciled, he would pat her on the bottom and remark, ‘My, what a nice fanny you have.’ (That’s ‘fanny’ in the American sense, of course.) Elaine may initially have appreciated the compliment, but after a few performances she may not have welcomed being touched on that particular part of her anatomy so soon after the spanking scene. It didn’t take long before her husband’s ‘benevolent palm’ fell heavier, and she was once again resorting to the padding she had used in St Louis. This only made him redouble his efforts to make an impact, so she retaliated with her own forceful interpretation of the wrist-biting called for in the script. After she drew first blood, he took to wearing leather wrist bands – and spanked her harder still!

One lady playgoer, apparently concerned in equal parts for the state of his marriage and the state of Elaine’s bottom, wrote him a letter of advice. ‘If you would not spank your wife so high up, it would not be so painful to the victim,’ she wrote. You can see him doing just that to Doris Dudley in the Life photos, spanking to make contact with the upper part of her bottom. His lady correspondent suggested instead: ‘Cup your hand and spank low on the buttocks with an upward swing, it will look just as effective.’ She signed herself ‘A Mother of Experience’ – presumably one who regarded maternal spankings as less about making an impact on her naughty daughters’ posteriors so much as a kind of exemplary theatrical display for the benefit of the other siblings who were watching!

So far as we know, Barrymore didn’t take the maternal advice, but there was respite on the way…

Hollywood Drops the Ball

‘Elaine Barrie’s bottom will be spared a spanking for six weeks this summer,’ wrote Picture Play’s New York correspondent. ‘My Dear Children, in which she has been draped nightly over the knee of her roguish spouse, John Barrymore, has recessed.’ To be precise, the play closed in New York on May 18 after a four-month run of 117 performances, because Barrymore had bought himself out to make a film in Hollywood (for five times the money he was making on Broadway).

20th Century Fox had been developing a movie about Evans Garrick, an ageing alcoholic actor with marital troubles, who tries to achieve a reconciliation with his wife by appearing with her in a stinker of a play. Adolphe Menjou had been cast to play the lead. But then the papers filled with stories of an ageing alcoholic actor who was dumped by his wife after they costarred together in a rather poor play. Sounds familiar! Someone at the studio had a bright idea that would simultaneously avoid a libel suit and garner valuable publicity for the picture. Menjou was paid off and John Barrymore was hired to replace him, with Mary Beth Hughes playing his wife. Here she is:

31 Mary Beth Hughes

The script was rewritten to make it more obviously a Barrymore vehicle, which included entitling it The Great Profile.

32 Great Profile

More pertinently, a scene was added alluding directly to My Dear Children: in that terrible play, Evans Garrick was going to spank his wife on stage – hard!

But when word of this got out, Catherine Turney and Jerry Horwin decided it was a cash-in too far. If Fox wanted to include the spanking scene, their lawyers argued, the studio would have to buy the rights to the whole play – for $20,000! Now, much as you and I might have retorted that there was nothing unique about a spanking scene and that lots of other plays and movies had featured them, Fox decided to avoid litigation and rewrote the script again to change one gross indignity for another: instead of spending some  painful time across John Barrymore’s lap, Mary Beth Hughes had her dress ripped off.

That girl must, like Diana Barrymore, have had a built-in spanking avoidance device, only even more efficiently calibrated. The following year she played one of the title roles in The Cowboy and the Blonde, which so obviously should have included a spanking scene that it often appears on lists of movies that did. The regrettable truth is that this was another lucky escape for Mary Beth Hughes!

The Great Profile was released that fall at around the same time as another from 20th Century Fox that is better known in the annals of cinema spanking: Public Deb No. 1, whose highlight was, according to an early review, ‘one of those lusty, Barrymorish spankings which are ruinous on gowns, impressive with regard to posteriors, and distracting to female tempers’ (Pittsburgh Post Gazette). My Dear Children evidently still lingered in the American memory!

But it didn’t linger on Broadway. There were plans to resume ‘the saga of the spank’ in New York on August 19, and it was reported that ‘Elaine Barrie will again play “Bottoms Up” on the Barrymore knee to the delight of audiences’. But that never happened. First it was decided to take the show on the road again… but Barrymore was just too ill to continue (he died, sodden with drink, less than two years later) and Elaine Barrie had renewed divorce proceedings with a twelve-page petition that included the aforementioned elaborated, panty-splitting version of the St Louis spanking of April 1939. And this time, there was no going back.

Spank Her, Baby, One More Time

But that wasn’t quite the end of My Dear Children. Fitful efforts to get it made into a movie began when the play was still in Chicago – Barrymore was reportedly offered $150,000 to star in it – but the film rights were only finally sold in September 1954, to Columbia Pictures (who didn’t bother to make the movie). Plans laid in 1946 to turn it into a stage musical were likewise stillborn.

The play’s future in the American professional theater was limited to a handful of stock performances in the mid-1940s, of which it’s worth mentioning three. Almost nothing is known about the earliest of these, at Seattle in the 1942/3 season, except for the fact that there are pictures from the production at the University of Washington, in an archive collection that’s open to the public. Surely they must have photographed the famous spanking scene – so if we have any readers in Seattle, it might be worth taking a look! (Please share what you find: don’t be a hoarder!)

The other two notable stock productions both had direct links to the Barrymore original. On August 17, 1943, My Dear Children opened at the Subway Circuit Theatre in Brooklyn, in a production directed by Arnold Korff, who had played an aged servant in the 1939/40 production. Manville was played by second-league horror star Lionel Atwill, who was hoping the play would give him an entrée on Broadway. (It didn’t.) And ‘the girl who gets spanked’ was blonde June Stewart, who ‘comes close to running away with the play’, according to the reviewer in the Brooklyn Eagle.

The next professional Manville of note was another horror actor, and a close friend of the now late Barrymore, John Carradine. His production opened at the Pasadena Playhouse in Calfornia on December 6, 1944, with Sonia Sorel getting spanked. Here she is:

33 Sonia Sorel

She can’t have objected too much, because she married Carradine on March 25 the following year. They then took the play out east, and opened for a week at the Brighton Playhouse, Coney Island, on July 31.

In 1944, Manuel Barbera translated the play into Spanish as Mis Amadas Hijas (My Beloved Daughters), and it was performed in both Argentina and Uruguay. Narciso Ibáñez Menta both directed the play and took the role of Manville, in which capacity, just like Barrymore, he spanked not one but two Cordelias! On March 16, when the show opened at the Teatro Politeama in Buenos Aires, the girl getting the nalgada was 25-year-old Rosa Rosen:

33a Rosa Rosen

But when he ran the play for two weeks at the Teatro Artigas in Montevideo, from July 15, it was with a mostly new cast, so it was Elsa Martinez he put across his knee:

33b Elsa Martínez

Here’s the whole Argentinian cast and backstage crew at the premiere:

33c Argentina

Back in the US of A, the play was also taken up sporadically by amateur groups, including the Civic Players of Syracuse, New York, whose production got two brief outings in the summer and fall of 1941, totalling five performances in all. One notable feature of this version was the minor adaptation to make the Swiss setting more generic and Ruritanian, thereby avoiding any specific reference to the current political situation in Europe. And, perhaps more pertinently, this was yet another production with two different Cordelias: Gertrude Waite took the spankings in the summer, but was replaced by Jane Cutting in October. It is not known whether Gertrude had followed in Elaine Barrie’s footsteps and walked out because her bottom couldn’t take it!

However, the play’s slightly risqué reputation meant it made relatively little headway in mid-century America’s thriving culture of school drama. But the Senior class of Bellevue High School in Washington State did tackle it in 1953, with Stan Burnett and Jo Ann Tate:

34 My Dear Children school 1953

And so My Dear Children sank gradually into the obscurity of past history while Kiss Me Kate rose to glory retelling a little of its backstage story. But if there’s one person who deserves to be better remembered for her part in the affair, here she is with John Barrymore:

35 Doris Dudley

Applause, please, for Doris Dudley – the true star of My Dear Children!

Clara Bow in Black Oxen

Smoking, drinking, carousing, and chasing men! The crimes of the flappers were almost as bad as their successors the bobby soxers , and Clara Bow’s character Janet Oglethorpe commits most of them in five minutes of incendiary screen flapperdom from the 1924 silent movie Black Oxen.

The pay-off is a spanking threat delivered by Lee Clavering (Conway Tearle) via the medium of a speech panel.

Watch from the beginning to 4.40; Clara Bow lights up the screen as the naughty flapper. Then read on for the full story and the novel extracts which include more than a threat.

Intriguingly, the George Eastman House film museum  retains a print of the film which is incomplete, comprising the first seven reels, but not the eighth. A 60-minute version  is available on DVD. No complete version of the film is currently commercially available.

Janet and Lee do get married in the end and in the novel on which the film is based, she also gets the spanking she deserves, not from Lee, but from her father, Jim.

Which leads us to the inevitable question: could the spanking be in the later part of the movie that is now missing?  The parts we do have follow the book closely. And there would have to be some kind of comeuppance for Janet for the story to resolve itself properly.

In the book it is a reported spanking that is talked about  but still described in some detail. How the film handles it remains a mystery.

Janet was a child when she got the other spankings referred to by Lee so her reply to to the idea of him spanking her now, as a grown woman, is nonchalant and even a little risqué (for 1924).

“Can I depend on that?”

This is the dialogue as it was written in the original novel by Gertrude Atherton . The threat is delivered again, not by Lee, but by the father Jim Oglethorpe.

I see that you are even sillier than I thought. You need nothing so much as a sound spanking.”

“My dear Jim,” said Clavering drily. “You’ve just pronounced yourself a man of consummate experience. Need I remind you that when a man has held a girl on his lap as a child, she is generally the last girl he wants on his lap later on? Man loves the shock of novelty, the spice of surprise. It’s hard to get that out of a girl you have spanked—as I did Janet on two different occasions. She was a fascinating youngster, but a little devil if there ever was one.”

Intoxicated - Clara Bow in Black Oxen

In Janet’s next scene we see her partying the night away (13 mins 45 secs into the clip). Later she is involved in a car crash and is taken home, intoxicated, by Lee. In the novel, he has to explain to Jim what happened.

I suppose I know what you mean. But it turned out all right. She happened to meet me, not some man who might have annoyed her. Of course she shouldn’t have taken such a risk, but; what can you do with these flappers? They’re all in league together and you might as well let them go their little pace. It won’t last. They’ll soon be older, and I don’t suppose you intend to play the heavy father and lock her up.”

“No, but I’d like damn well to get her married. Mother told me a pretty tale. It seems she made a row at Sherry’s last night, making you and some lady you had with you as conspicuous as herself. Mrs. Vane was there and carried it straight to mother. Mother’s no fool and had already got on to this younger generation business and given Janny one or two tongue lashings, but she never dreamed it had gone as far as it looks. Roaming the streets alone at one in the morning! She’d undoubtedly been drinking last night—God! I’ve a notion to take a switch to her. And I suppose she was pretty well lit the night you picked her up. I’ve never seen a hint of it. Janny’s spoilt enough. Her mother never had the slightest control over her and she could always get round me. But she won’t in the future. I’ll get top-hand somehow. God! My daughter!

Little Miss Mischief - Clara Bow In Black Oxen

Clavering did not express his doubts on this point aloud. He was in truth horribly embarrassed and hardly knew what to say. Not for a moment did he believe that the minx was in love with him, nor would he have taken the trouble to find out, even to please Jim Oglethorpe and his mother, had Mary Zattiany never crossed his horizon. But he felt sorry for his friend and would have liked to banish his brooding distress.

“Look here!” he exclaimed. “You’ll have to buck up and take her in hand. After all, you’re her father and she respects you. No girl respects her mother these days, apparently, but the father has the advantage of being male. Give her a talking to. Tell her how cut up you are. She’s too young to be as hard as she likes to think. Don’t preach. That would make matters worse. Appeal to her. Tell her she’s making you miserable. If that doesn’t work—well, your idea of taking a switch to her isn’t bad. A sound spanking is what they all need, and it certainly would take the starch out of them. Make them feel so damned young they’d forget just how blasé they’re trying to be.

This talk is all very promising and in the end the father takes Lee’s advice and DOES give Janet the adult spanking that she has been asking for – otk with a hair-brush (not a switch)!

Disrespecting her elders - Clara Bow in Black Oxen

We find out about this in a conversation between Lee and the fearsome matriarch Jane Oglethorpe (in the centre of the picture above) – think of Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey and then double it!.

She certainly looked imposing tonight in spite of her old-fashioned corsets and her iron-gray hair arranged in flat rolls and puffs on the precise top of her head, for although flesh had accumulated lumpily on her back, her shoulders were still unbowed, her head as haughtily poised as in her youth, and the long black velvet gown with yellow old point about the square neck (the neck itself covered, like the throat, with net), and falling over her hands, became her style if not the times.

“Well, Lee!” she said drily. “I suppose when you got my note you thought I had gone bug-house, as my fastidious granddaughter Janet would express it. But that is the way I felt and that is the way I feel at the present moment.”

“Dear Lady Jane! Whatever it is, here I am to command, as you see. There is no engagement I wouldn’t have broken——”

“You are a perfect dear, and if I were forty years younger I should marry you. However, we’ll come to that later. I want to talk to you about that damnable little Janet first—we’ll have to go in now.”

When they were seated at a small table at one end of the immense dining-room she turned to the butler and said sharply:

“Get out, Hawkins, and stay out except when we can’t get on without you.” And Hawkins, whom a cataclysm would not have ruffled after forty-five years in Mrs. Oglethorpe’s service, vanished.

“Jim said he had a talk with you about Janet, and that you advised him to spank her,” she said. “Well, he did.”

“What?” Clavering gave a delighted grin. “I never believed he’d do it.”

“Nor I. Thought his will had grown as flabby as his body. But when she stood up to him and with a cool insolence, which she may or may not have inherited from me, or which may be merely part and parcel of the new manner, and flung in his face a good deal more than he knew already, and asked him what he was going to do about it, he turned her over his knee and took a hair-brush to her.”

“It must have been a tussle. I suppose she kicked and scratched?”

“She was so astonished that at first she merely ejaculated: ‘Oh, by Jimminy!’ Then she fought to get away and when she found she couldn’t she began to blubber, exactly as she did when she was not so very much younger and was spanked about once a day. That hurt his feelings, for he’s as soft as mush, and he let her go; but he locked her up in her room and there she stays until she promises to behave herself as girls did in his time. I’m afraid it won’t work. She hasn’t promised yet, but merely hisses at him through the keyhole. D’you understand this new breed? I’m afraid none of the rest of us do.”

Thanks to Michael for telling me about this scene . 


In the Photographer’s Studio (13)

Vancouver-based Shimona Henry is both a make-up artist, with some music videos and film credits to her name, and a photographer. In the latter capacity she runs the firm Pin-Up Perfection, which aims, she says, to enhance women’s self-esteem by photographing them in sexy poses. Her work sits somewhere between the pin-up, fetish and ‘Bettie Page’ schools of photography, and she often flirts with imagery that comes within the purview of spanking.

For several years running, she has photographed the models at the Lace Embrace exhibition of antique corsets at the Hycroft Gallery in Vancouver.

shimona Henry 00

And for several years running, a handful of the models have messed around in mildly interesting ways. In May 2012:

Shimona Henry 01 corset 2012Shimona Henry 02 Corset 2012Shimona Henry 03 corset 2012

(In the first two shots, the model who’s standing up is Virginia Newton-Moss. In the third one, Crystal Precious is sitting down and Kerosene Deluxe may soon be unable to.)

And in May 2013, somebody brought along a paddle for use by Erin Johanson on Melanie Talkington:

shimona henry 04 corset 2013Shimona Henry 05 corset ex 2013

Mackenzie Gray also found a use for it on Debbie Wiecke:

Shimona Henry 06 corset 2013

In my terms, these are only very marginally definable as spanking pictures – hopefully some readers will find more to enjoy in them – but for once there’s a very good reason for that. You may look at these pictures and see some bottom-smacking antics, but what I see is a group of models taking great care to avoid damaging the merchandise: no proper OTK spanking for these girls in corsets!

But Shimona has shot OTK spanking images at least twice. Before we see the first one, which was part of a 2011 shoot for Retro Lovely Magazine, let’s meet the models who are going to feature in it.

First off, here’s Lou la Massacre, who is not only an ‘alternative model’ but also, like Shimona, a make-up artist. She says her personal fetish is being squeezed into tight clothes!

shimona Henry 06a Lou la Massacreshimona Henry 06b Lou la MassacreShimona Henry 07 Lou la MassacreShimona Henry 08 Lou la Massacre

Admire her rear end while you can, because when you next see her she’ll be sitting on it.

The bottom that’s going to be upended belongs to Dallas Valentine and – do you notice a theme emerging here? – she too is a make-up artist!

Shimona Henry 09 Dallas ValentineShimona Henry 09a Dallas Valentine

All she needs is Lou’s lap beneath her, and we’ll be away!

So here we go. But maybe she can lose a few clothes before we begin…

Shimona Henry 10

The second group of spanking pictures were part of a lesbian themed shoot featuring two burlesque artistes: Rianne Brundlefly Keel, whose stage name is Riannaconda…

Shimona Henry 10a Riannacondashimona henry 11 riannaconda

and Dezi Desire, who also uses the name Dezi Raider…

shimona henry 11a deziShimona Henry 11b Dezishimona henry 12 deziShimona henry 13 dezishimona henry 14 dezi

Not content with just burlesque and modeling, they’re also a couple of cosplayers. Here’s Riannaconda as Catwoman:

Shimona Henry 15 Riannaconda catwoman

And here’s Dezi as the curviest Riddler you ever did see:

shimona henry 16 dezi riddler

The Riddler even features in one of Dezi’s acts.

Shimona henry 17 dezi

She also does striptease routines featuring herself as various iconic sci-fi characters, like Mr Spock or…

shimona henry 17a deziShimona henry 18 dezi

Tom Baker’s Doctor Who!

And, just to keep things even, here’s an interesting moment from Riannaconda onstage:

Shimona Henry 19 Riannaconda

Domination-themed fetish photography often features Nazi uniforms as a kind of shorthand for authoritarianism. Shimona’s 2013 shoot with Riannaconda and Dezi spins that around to find the jackboot at the other end of the political spectrum:

shimona henry 21shimona henry 22

The shoot was entitled ‘From Russia, With Love’, and was intended as a comment on Russia’s illiberal treatment of gay people:

shimona henry 23shimona henry 24

Most of the shoot was taken up with lesbian cavorting, but right now Dezi’s fortunes seem to have taken a turn for the worse:

shimona henry 25shimona henry 25ashimona henry 26

Maybe it’s lucky for her she’s wearing black panties as well as her leotard and fishnets!

Trying to publish the pictures through another less than liberal organization, Facebook, had its drawbacks. Apologies for the censorship here:

shimona henry 27 facebook censored

But of course, none of these are technically spanking photographs in the strictest sense of the term (and, of course, we are strict here at the Spank Statement).

shimona henry 28shimona henry 29

Put the riding whip away, Riannaconda, and put the girl across your knee!

Shimona Henry 30Shimona Henry 31

One question remains: is Riannaconda relaxing with her drink before, during or after spanking Dezi?

Maybe there was something inevitable about the way that shoot turned out. Dezi was once asked to name her top five turn-ons, and top of the list was ‘military uniforms’ – in fact, she supplied the costumes for the shoot. She also likes ‘being dominated’ and ‘rough stuff’, and says that her bottom is one of her favorite parts of herself. So let’s pay it a little more appreciation before we bid it, and her, a fond farewell:

shimona henry 31a dezishimona henry 32 dezishimona henry 33 dezishimona henry 34  dezishimona henry 35 deziShimona Henry 36 Dezi dshimona henry 36a deziMore Than You Can Handleshimona henry 38 dezi

Despite her acknowledged tastes, I haven’t yet found Dezi in another spanking shoot. Sadly it seems that, unlike Shimona, some photographers just don’t get it…

shimona henry 39 dezi

But on the other hand, it’s only auf wiedersehen to Riannaconda. She has posed for spanking pics by at least two other photographers who’ll be coming up in future installments. And surely, sooner or later, that girl’s luck is going to run out…

If you are interested in Shimona’s work, please visit her website.

Le Médecin Malgré Lui in Eastern Europe

The Theatre aux Eclats version of Moliere’s Le Médecin Malgré Lui is now in production:

So, are we all headed off to France to see Marie Fournier get the rest of that exciting spanking?

Maybe… even though it seems more exciting in that rehearsal video than it does in full costume:

Medecin 2014 Marie Fournier Medecin 2014 Marie Fournier 2

But today I’m going to take you further east, to begin an intermittent run of posts that will occasionally appear instead of the usual Sunday theater series.

If you know nothing about Moliere, look here for your initial orientation.

Le Médecin Malgré Lui begins with a marital argument between the lazy, drunken woodcutter Sganarelle and his wife Martine, in the course of which he threatens her repeatedly with a beating (‘your skin itches,’ he says at one point), and eventually gives it to her. A passer-by, Robert, comments on this disgraceful behavior, but Martine says she likes to be beaten by her husband, and slaps Robert’s face for sticking his nose in where it wasn’t wanted. Partly this is about not letting a stranger come between husband and wife… but it also establishes that the marriage has an element of role-play about it, and that, like Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Martine accepts blows as a form of marital attention, and therefore welcomes them, however equivocally. And indeed Sganarelle tells her the very same thing: it is a normal part of a loving relationship for a husband to beat his wife, and five or six whacks can add spice to affection.

Nevertheless, Martine decides to get her own back on him … and this is where the story really starts. When she encounters some servants who are looking for a doctor to cure their master’s daughter, who has been struck dumb, she convinces them that an extremely learned physician lives in the woods, living a simple life as a woodcutter. Sganarelle is forced into the role of a doctor, which he pulls off because, as it happens, he was once the servant to a famous doctor and remembers the medical lingo. It turns out that the daughter had not lost the use of her tongue at all: she was just pining for love, and Sganarelle’s intervention creates the chance for her to elope…

For our purposes, the first important question is, what sort of a beating is this? The stage direction reads, ‘Il prend un bâton, et lui a donne’ (He picks up a stick and ‘gives it to her’). Some translators render the word bâton as ‘cudgel’, and some productions make it a very big cudgel; the scene can be presented as a kind of ‘Punch and Judy’ slapstick beating, or, worse, as serious domestic violence, often aimed at her back or head rather than her bottom. But on the other hand, there are productions that do away with the stick, and the beating has even been done as an Apache dance (in Russia, in 2012). And some productions, of most interest to us, play it as a spanking across his knee, with or without the stick.

Medecin Malgre 2012Medecin malgre lui

What’s really at issue is how to strike the right balance in Martine’s mixed feelings: productions that overdo the brutality may amply justify her vindictive reaction that sets the plot in motion, but they also make her rejection of Robert’s intervention harder to understand. Playing it as a spanking may in fact offer the best route through the contradictory complexities of her attitude.

Moliere wrote the play in 1666, and he himself played Sganarelle when it opened in August. Of course, the play has remained popular in France to this day. But this series is going to follow the play’s many productions in the rest of the world, and the various versions in which Martine gets something closer to a spanking than a beating.

This first installment takes us to the lands beyond what used to be the Iron Curtain. Our journey will take us almost round in a circle. It begins in Romania, where the play is entitled The Unlicensed Doctor (but in Romanian, obviously).

Our first stop is in 1976, when the Romanian National Theater’s production was televised. Amza Pellea plays Sganarelle, with Ileana Stana Ionescu as Martine:

Leaping forward to the year 2000, we find the play in production at Birlad, with Andrei Ciubotaru and Diana Lazãr

Ten years later, a  school production won an award. And things are getting a little less casual as Sganarelle lifts Martine over his shoulder to spank her:

Martine went properly OTK at Gilau in 2011, though we only have photos, not video. Here Andrada Bordai plays Martine, and she is being spanked by Marian Orbulescu as Sganarelle:

Medecin Malgre Gilau 2011 01Medecin Malgre Gilau 2011 02Medecin Malgre Gilau 2011 03

And in 2014 the play was staged by the Municipal Theater in Vanatori Neamt:

What’s amusing about this one is how he moves the chair so that, when she comes around, he’s sitting in her path … she effectively walks herself into a spanking!

Now we travel westward to Hungary. Here’s a trailer for a television production in 2011, with a heftier than usual Martine:

And this ‘making of’ film includes two outtakes from the scene:

(The first one aborts during the chase, but keep watching after the talking head…)

North now to the Czech Republic, where our first port of call is the 2008 Suchdol Festival, where the play, by a weird literary coincidence, was directed by one Josef Konrad:

What’s that no-good husband of hers going to do with that stick?

Medecin 2008 Czech Suchdol Festival

Ah… that’s alright, then!

Next stop Broumov, for an open-air festival production in the monastery courtyard by the Little Theater. This has another plus-size Martine, and if you look carefully you can see she’s being spanked on her bloomers:

Medecin Broumov July 2011

And so to Poland. First, a school production from Ryczywole in 2008, in which it’s not so much a spanking as a few smacks during an over-the-shoulder carry:

Now for a 2011 production by Teatr MIST in Krakow, directed by Michno Stanisław; Martine was Aneta Stachyra and Sganarelle was Michno Wojciech. Here’s a trailer:

Here’s Aneta being spanked at the dress rehearsal:

Medecin 2011 Poland 1 Medecin 2011 Poland 1a

They used a different stick for the opening night… and made one other important change:

Medecin 2011 Poland 3Medecin 2011 Poland 4Medecin 2011 Poland 5

(If you look closely at the first photo, you can see Aneta’s own white panties under her bloomers!)

And most recently, a 2014 production by Teatr XL of Warsaw, directed by Sergei Timofeev, in which Magdalena Łoś receives the husbandly attentions of Zbigniew Pożoga, first in  rehearsal…

Medecin 2014 Poland

… and then in performance, with two views from opposite angles:

Medecin 2014 Poland 2Medecin 2014 Poland 3a

We next arrive in Russia, where the play is called Doctor Like-It-or-Not. Here’s a television production from 2002:

Now for something really rather splendid from Tolyatti in 2005, in a production by the town’s Youth Theater directed by Leonid Titov:

Just for once Sganarelle throws away the stick and does the job properly by hand. There’s even a clue in Martine’s performance that secretly she enjoys the spanking, as she later tells Robert: she must know what’s going to happen to her as soon as  she goes across her husband’s knee, but she only actually protests, with pleasing vigor, after each smack! In other words, it’s consensual pretending to be non-consensual, which is exactly the best way to play the character…

And here’s another nice one from a 2013 stage school production, from Tver, north of Moscow. Elena Veselkova is being spanked by Pavel Mischenko:

Yes, the smacks are perhaps imperfectly simulated, and, yes, the OTK positioning  is somewhat less than excellent… but a skirt-up spanking on short bloomers is always welcome!

And finally to Ukraine, whose second city, Kharkov, was the venue for a 1999 student production with a rather striking Martine with pretty bloomers:

Admittedly we have seen Ukrainian students getting even better spankings on their even prettier undergarments… but that was FEMEN, and this has been Moliere!


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